Archive

  • Meta-Bigots

    This Slate piece on Sarah Silverman gets a number of interesting, fairly subtle things very right: Silverman's work is a natural byproduct of the high-stakes game of contemporary American identity politics—the emotionally volatile generalizing about our moral right to generalize. But she's not just a critic of PC culture: She's a connoisseur. She handles the complex algorithms of taboo—who's allowed to joke about what, to whom, using what terminology—with instant precision: "Everybody blames the Jews for killing Christ, and then the Jews try to pass it off on the Romans. I'm one of the few people that believe it was the blacks." (The joke exposes not the ancient perfidy of any particular race but the absurdity of blaming entire races for anything.) Her best jokes are thought experiments in the internal logic of political correctness: "I want to get an abortion, but my boyfriend and I are having trouble conceiving." A Playboy interviewer, probing for something salacious, once asked...
  • California Wrap-Ups

    Sorry for the lack of posting this morning, was editing a piece. Normal frequency starts now. For now, keep yourself busy with the LA Weekly's coverage of the California elections, particularly Meyerson's piece. This was more than a rejection of Arnold, it was a rejection of a particular and poisonous form of politics, and it was proof that a riven Labor movement can still show epic solidarity under threat. All in all, a big, and very good, day.
  • Puncturing the Myth of Rove

    Oliver Willis gets this just right: One of the most annoying things I’ve seen in coverage of the Virginia race is the near-mythic stature afforded the Rove-created “ 72 Hour Task Force “. When the polls showed Kaine up 5%, the drumbeat of how superawesome the task force would be was supposed to put fear in the hearts of Dems. And I couldn’t understand it. The Republicans ran a dedicated get-out-the-vote operation, they didn’t cast a voodoo spell. The way to defeat that is to run one of your own, only better. Mark Warner did it in 2001, and Tim Kaine did it tonight. Like the mythmaking of Karl Rove, this stuff isn’t so mysterious, and folks need to stop making it so that you believe the b.s. The myth of Karl Rove is greatly exaggerated. He got his boy to almost not lose the election in 2000 and brought an incumbent war president to a three percent victory in 2004. The guy's got talents, sure, and he's been very smart about a few important things, but he's no superbrain. Plus, his...
  • More Growth!

    Dean Baker has some suggestions for real pro-growth progressivism, and they all look good to me. It strikes me as strange that economists spend a lot of time inveighing against trade-related protectionism but have little to say about similar barriers in the domestic economy. I'd love to see an expanded Medicare compete in the private market, love to see government-run 401(k)'s pass their increased efficiency onto workers, love to see the sweetheart legislative deal drug companies have unravel a bit in taxpayer's favor, love to see the rich stop paying effectively lower tax rates than the middle class (why should they get all those great growth incentives?), love to see schools financed by something other than property taxes so wealthy districts can't entrench their eonomic superiority into generational perpetuity, and so forth. Look at me, ma -- I'm a pro- fair growth progressive! Also check out my post on Tapped about tying the minimum wage to productivity increases among workers. It...
  • Fishin' 4 Religion

    There's something of a consensus forming, and very likely a correct one, that in addition to the legacy of Warner, what won the election for Tim Kaine was was his sincere and oft-mentioned faith. Good to hear it. But these discussions always worry me a bit. It's not that I necessarily feel qualified to dispute their conclusions, but the premise, and the implications, are troubling. It's bad enough that Democrats believe they've got to fake faith these days, transforming casual spiritual commitments into essential components of our beings. Worse, however, is that these theological costume parties come off as obviously inauthentic, meaning Democrats who want to compete in certain races simply have to be longtime believers, sincere theists like Kaine or Clinton. That's a worrisome precedent. Political office should not be restricted to anyone, not veterans, not believers, not men, and not Democrats. Quite a few folks in this country have a casual relationship to religion and that shouldn...
  • Referendum on Referenda

    Matt Singer makes , I think, a good point here: Two years ago, I went on a rant following Schwarzenegger’s election about how politicians in California were using ballot issues to sidestep the legislative process. There has been an uptick in anti-initiative sentiment in recent years, a natural response to interest groups walking away from the legislative table in order to succeed independent of the system. Now, to an extent, this is unfortunate. Nominally, even Schwarzenegger’s ballot issues were about reform, even if that reform all happened to structurally favor a single party. And there are good reasons to think that legislators won’t reform themselves, but it seems clearer that this is precisely what they want. In Ohio, the Governor has a measly 19% approval rating (think Judy Martz) and scandals are present virtually all over the state. Yet the voters rejected four reform measures. In part, this shows how a machine dedicated to staying dirty can fight reform by voters just as...
  • Can't Argue With Results

    Sure is a shame that last night didn't happen next year. Kaine won by a far-better-than-expected 6%, Corzine easily brought it home by 10%, and every one of Arnold's initiatives failed. That's a landslide for the Democrat in the blue, an easy win for the Democrat in the red, and a resounding rejection of the Republican trying to crimsonize the left coast. All in all, a very good evening. And we shouldn't forget that these results are not mere bellwhethers for 2006 -- they mean progressive government for these states, legislation that focuses on the needy, revitalization of grassroots parties and efforts, leaders willing to experiment and implement liberal policy ideas, and, at least in Virginia, a natural candidate for the Senate down the line. This morning is also a celebratory one for three others. Phil Angelides and Steve Westly, Arnold's challengers in California, have big grins on their faces. Today would either bring the revitalization or destruction of Arnold's prestige, and...
  • Fundraiser Finished

    Got more than enough names. And assuming those who signed up completed offers, it's all gravy baby. Thanks folks.
  • Mac Help

    Awhile back, I had an Apple employee reading here. If you're still out there, could you e-mail me? I have some questions I'd like to ask you. On a different, though related note: #&@&#$@ my Powerbook!
  • A Newer, Gentler Gas Tax

    Finally, a gas tax proposal I could accept: Sen's argument is that because the supply of oil is fairly inelastic and production is mostly controlled by a cartel, if we imposed a tax on crude oil rather than gasoline, the overwhelming majority of the cost would be borne by producers rather than consumers. As a result, a crude tax would raise the price of gas at the pump (thus encouraging fuel conservation) but it would raise federal revenue by much more than it raised consumer cost. That would allow the government to provide a lump-sum rebate to all citizens that substantially exceeds the increased costs of fuel, thus making this proposal much more politically viable than a conventional gas tax. The only problem is, it wouldn't work. The point of a cartel is that they control enough of a resource or market that you can't unilaterally impose conditions on them. If we decide to bleed OPEC and they decide to starve us, they'll win. America simply cannot produce or import enough oil from...

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